Dragon Rampant: Review and Test Game

dragon rampant

Heyhey. Today I’d like to take a closer look at Dragon Rampant – Fantasy Wargaming Rules by Daniel Mersey. I will also take this opportunity to cover DR’s bigger brother, Lion Rampant.

Pretty much exactly 10 years ago, I wrote one of my first wargames rules reviews on Lion Rampant (1st edition). That was on a different blog, which since vanished. Luckily I was able to salvage the review, but never re-published it on here. In 2022 Osprey treated Lion Rampant to a 2nd edition, hard-back and all, which they rarely do with their ‘blue book’ series. Only one that comes to my mind right now is Gaslands, but there probably are one or two more. Osprey Wargames publish a LOT.

Lion Rampant
Lion Rampant (1st edition), Osprey Wargames 2014

So the following review can pretty much be read as a review of Lion Rampant as well since the rules for it are 99% the same as Dragon Rampant. The latter is the fantasy version of Lion Rampant. The main difference being troop types and Dragon Rampant adding ‘Fantastical Rules’. Because I only have Lion Rampant 1st edition at hand I’ll base the bits I say about Lion Rampant on that. You can have a look at this excellent article on the differences between LR1 and LR2 here. You’ll see that there virtually are no changes between LR1 and LR2, as between Lion Rampant and it’s Fantasy version, Dragon Rampant. It’s all the same really, just with slightly different troop type names and extra rules. Still, I’m glad I didn’t insist in packing all the other variants of these popular rules into this review as well. 🙂


The Book

Lion Rampant

The cover layout is of the usual Osprey design. Excellent choice on the artwork in my opinion. I mean they are Osprey so they should have an archive of excellent art for any period of military history. There would be no excuse for bad cover art on these books in my opinion.


Dragon Rampant


dragon rampant

Also a perfectly nice cover. Can’t go wrong with a red dragon.

Both books are softback, 64 pages, full colour and good quality. There is a mix of excellent pieces of artwork from the Osprey library and photos of miniatures. Right there is a detail that made me smile – most of the miniatures pictured are from the author’s collection, some old, some new. Some of them with a very old-school gloss varnish finish. Most of the photos were done by the one and only Mr.Henry Hyde, famous for being the author of the Wargaming Compendium (which I will have to write a seperate article about in the near future I just realized [that is a sentence I wrote in 2014… still hasn’t happened. Yikes.),  running the Battlechat podcast and for being an all-round good egg.

The miniatures pictured throughout both books are of various manufacturers like the Perrys, EM4, Wargames Factory, Foundry, Fireforge Games, Crusader Miniatures and so on. Very nice and definately one of the advantages of rule sets which aren’t published by a miniatures manufacturer. With Dragon Rampant a fair amount of Mantic and North Star figures (painted by Kevin Dallimore! I like the way he paints things.) are added in as well. I’m glad they kept the humorous captions with the miniature photos in Dragon Rampant.

Throughout the book you will find very useful Designer’s Notes.


The Rules

Anything that follows now can be read as applying to Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant.

What do I need to play?

So what is Dragon Rampant all about? These rules aim to depict larger skirmishes between fantasy warbands of all sorts, with 30-60 figures per side (Dragon Rampant gives you options to go much smaller or bigger though. More on this later.). You will also need a tape measure a 6′ by 4′ table (the rules are deliberately vague on the table size. You can go smaller or bigger. I suggest a 6′ by 4′ table for a regular game with 28mm figures, but I’ll always suggest the biggest table available. 😛 ), terrain, 12 or more 6-sided dice and some sort of tokens to mark units which are Battered. Possibly Strength point counters for monsters as well.

In terms of figures, you can go with any size you like (apply common sense). Most collections will be 28mm sized. 32mm will work, just as well as anything down to say 15mm. Figures usually are single-based, single models will be removed as casualties.

dragon rampant warhammer

The Game Turn

Dragon Rampant uses an I-go-you-go system and if you ever played Warmaster, Hail Caesar, Black Powder or any of these games you will feel right at home with the activation system. Each time you attempt to activate a unit you may order it to do one thing: Move, Attack or Shoot (if they are armed with missile weapons). To carry out any of these actions a unit has to pass a certain number rolled on 2d6. For example a unit of archers (or slingers) has Shoot target number of 6+. So if I wanted them to shoot at an enemy unit I need to roll a total of six or more on 2d6 and they will carry out the order. For them to move requires the same roll but if I ordered them to charge an enemy unit in close combat a higher roll is required simply because archers are not trained to do that. They don’t view it as their job to even get into close combat and they probably know that their Attack Value is pretty shoddy.

dragon rampant review
Okay, these guys might be able to handle themselves in close combat, but surely they’d rather shoot.


Likewise, it will be much easier to get a unit of angry barbarians with big axes to charge at an enemy unit.

Speaking of combat – Units don’t have a set combat value but two different values for attack and defense, which I think is an excellent idea. It also allows for elegant deisgn moves such as calculating closing fire of missile troops into their defense value. Saves time, leads to pretty much the same results as more granular systems.

Close Combat is carried out as soon as a unit pass their Attack Activation roll and make contact with an enemy unit. In general there are no charge reactions in the game, except for some units which have special rules which allow them to either counter-charge (thus using their attack value even if being charged themselves) or evade. For either units have to pass activation rolls and failing these rolls can lead to disastrous results.

dragon rampant
(From: Dragon Rampant, Osprey Wargames)

Combat is very simple: Units over half strength roll 12 dice on the attack or defence, once they drop to half strength or under, they roll only 6 dice. This was an interesting design decision and maybe a bit too much “all or nothing” in its approach with this artificial break point of half the models or less. The attacker rolls their dice, counting each die to beat their attack value as a hit, the defender does the same, using their defence value. Hits are applied to the enemy unit (featuring a pretty elegant system to model armour). So it is very intuitive, despite the slightly “bucket of dice” style approach. However, you will never have to roll more than 12 dice.

dragon rampant review

Close combat never goes on for longer than one game turn. If combat is resolved and casualties are removed, the defeated unit has to recoil or, if they don’t pass their Courage (morale) check, have to retreat and get a Battered marker. Battered units will perform much worse in combat, can not be activated and have to be rallied at the player’s next turn. Otherwise they keep on retreating or rout off the table completely. In my experience units rout at the worse possible times and it can happen as soon as they take a single casualty. It requires a really bad roll, but it can happen.

Shooting works pretty much the same, not taking the target’s defence value into account (so only the attacker, i.e. shooter unit rolls dice), but factors such as range and cover play into it.

If you do not pass an activation roll for one of your units your turn is over and it’s your opponent’s turn. This can make for potentially very short turns or make you tear your hair out at times.I know, this is a slightly marmite thing with gamers. There are people who will not deal with a game which “doesn’t want me to play” (I think I heard that quote once), and I have witnessed insanely bad luck on activation rolls over longer stretches. But as always in battle: Rarely do things go to plan.

dragon rampant review
(From: Henry V., BBC/Renaissance Films)



Naturally leaders play a big role in such skirmish games. Usually one figure of one unit in your warband will be declared the leader. Friendly units nearby will benefit from a Courage bonus, and each leader will roll for a Leader Trait before the game. In Lion Rampant there are 12 such traits (about half of them good, the other half bad), Dragon Rampant ups that to 18 (about a third bad, the rest good). Lion Rampant 2 changed this to players ‘buying’ these traits rather than randomly getting one.dragon rampant review

Lion Rampant also had leader duels, which Dragon Rampant did away with. Most likely due to space constraints in the book and because a duel between Kamodai the giant black dragon and Hunklefoot, Halfling elder, can turn out to be a bit one-sided.


Army Lists

Dragon Rampant uses a points system. A game will usually feature 24 points of troops on either side; troop types are bought as they are, with limited upgrade options depending on the troop type.

Fantasy is a vast genre and almost everybody pictures things slightly differently. Dragon Rampant makes use of generic categorizations of troop types such as Heavy Cavalry, Light Foot, Greater Warbeasts, Light Shooters, etc. In Lion Rampant (the game about historical medieval skirmishes) each of them come with either 6 or 12 figures. Dragon Rampant, attempting to depict vastly different creatures apart from the usual human-sized humanoids, abstract this into Strength Points. This means that a Unit of Heavy Foot soldiers (slow-moving, stronger in defense than in offense, 12 Strength Points) might be depicted by 12 heavily armoured dwarven halbardiers (remove 1 figure for each casualty) OR by 6 burly Orc warriors with shields (lay one of them to their side for 1 casualty, remove figure for every 2 casualties)  OR a giant turtle (place a 12-sided die to count casualties or keep track on a notepad, for all players to see).

dragon rampant review

In terms of rules, they will always work the same, but in your game, you can make the unit pretty much anything.

On top of that, players may add Fantastical Rules to each unit. These are well-known fantasy traits such as Flying/Burrowing, Undead, Spellcaster (10 different spells available!), Mystical Armour or more exotic features such as Were-Animal or Exploder.

dragon rampant
Technically this dynamic duo could be implemented as Light Foot (for being nimble, not very good at attacking, but making use of the Wall of Spears ability to depict some sort of icy shell they conjure) with the Spellcaster fantastical rule added. Each one represents 6 Strength Points.

All of the above can have you put pretty much anything from your collection on the table without game-breaking rule combos. All you need is a little creativity and a little willingness to abstract. I found that putting together unit types based on my collection is great fun. To get the ideas going there is a list of typical Fantasy warbands and how to represent them in Dragon Rampant in the back of the book.

There are very, very few restrictions on unit choice in your warband, since the unit types are carefully designed so each of them has their uses. I’m sure that somebody found some ‘super overpowered combo’, but to me the system looks really robust given how much freedom it gives players.



Dragon Rampant comes with 6 thematic Scenarios (including Into The Valley of Certain Death or having to rescue a unit from being boilt in a pot for dinner), plus a basic “kill the enemy” scenario. The Lion Rampant rulebook has 12 different scenarios on offer, which is one of the reasons why the two compliment each other well as companion pieces.

There is always an attacker and a defender, although in some cases that just is a means to decide who goes first. In the end, its all about Glory Points (isn’t it always.), which are awarded as per the scenario rules. Additional Glory Points can be gathered by Quests. Before the game each player chooses up to three from a list of 21 Quests. Fulfilling these during the game will garner an additional one to three Glory per Quest, depending on the difficulty.

dragon rampant review

However, for each Quest the player fails to fulfil during the game, they will lose one Glory Point in the end.

Lion Rampant used a very similar system (Boasts), and a designer’s note in the Dragon Rampant rule book  states that players should feel free to choose from those just as they would quests in Dragon Rampant.



Dragon Rampant does not contain any campaign rules. Lion Rampant though has a simple campaign system in the back of the book for which there was no space in Dragon Rampant. Just one of those little things why I think that owning both rulebooks actually makes sense. The rules are the same really, but the aforementioned garnish copliments the other book rather well.



Test Game Battle Report

Right, now that we got all of that sorted and know what’s what, let’s dive into that test game, right?

Actually, I’d planned to give Xenos Rampant a spin, but with all the Old World hooplah going on around the turn of the year I decided to give my Warhammer Dark Elves army a rebasing. No, not to bigger bases: That would be silly. I just changed the former “dark rock and snow” theme to “brown earth, green grass, flowers”. Because army-specific basing is weird, and basing-to-fit-actual-tables-and-other-people’s-armies makes more sense to me.

Dragon Rampant Review Dark Elves

You can read more about the process here: https://www.battlebrushstudios.com/2024/02/showcase-rebased-my-dark-elves-army.html

There are further plans with that army for the future, which I hope I will report about on here soon.


For the game below I used Dan Mersey’s additional rules for flanks/facing and the “Hero” optional upgrade from Enhanced Rampant. Both of which can be found in the Verdict at the very end.


The Forces

For now though I got the Dragon Rampant rules out one night and started writing army lists. Couldn’t restrain myself to the usual 24 points, so I made it a 40 points game.

Dark Elves

Cold One Cavalry (Elite Riders, Fear), Dorian Silverblade (Leader) – 6 Strength Points
Dark Riders (Light Riders) – 6SP
Black Ark Corsairs (Heavy Foot, Offensive) – 12 SP
Witch Elves (Bellicose Foot, Venomous) – 12 SP
Dark Elf Warriors with Repeating Crossbows (Light Missiles) – 12 SP
Dark Elf Warriors with Repeating Crossbows (Light Missiles) – 12 SP
Black Guard (Heavy Foot, Hero), Sorceress Cassandra (Wizardlings) – 12 SP

dragon rampant warhammer

Quest: “They Will Cower Before Me!” (at least 3 enemy units on the table must be Battered at the same time)

Chaos-infused Giant Spiders

Thekla, Arachnomatriarch (Elite Foot, Venomous) – 6SP
Giant Spiders (Greater Warbeasts, Venomous, Ponderous) – 6SP
Giant Spiders (Greater Warbeasts, Venomous, Ponderous) – 6SP
Giant-ish Spiderlings (Lesser Warbeasts) – 6SP
Giant-ish Spiderlings (Lesser Warbeasts) – 6SP
Already-weird-Chaos-Wastes-Neighboring-Family-turned-Insane-Spider-Cultists (Light Foot, Undead) – 12SP

dragon rampant warhammer

Quest: “I Will Destroy More Units Than I Lose!” (must destroy/rout more units than the enemy does. Only units count, not individual casualties)

dragon rampant warhammer


The Scenario

We are somewhere in the tundra between the realm of the Dark Elves and the Northern chaos wastes. An inexplicable magic vortex spew out a number of warp stone clusters as well as magic items of unknown origin. Dark Elves sorceress Cassandra wants to get her hands on these potent artifacts. After five groups of slaves did not report back and probably found their untimely demise she decides to put together an expedition herself. Dorian Silverblade insists in coming along because he loves him some huntin’. Little do they know that a colony of mutated spiders developed a taste not only for slaves, but also for anything chaos-infused, including magic artifacts…

I played Scenario D: The Crystal Gale from the Dragon Rampant rule book. The playing area was about 6′ by 5′, but I made deployment zones a bit deeper.


dragon rampant review

There are 10 artifacts/clusters of warp stone to pick up, each one is worth one Glory Point. The game ends if one army is forced to retreat or when all artifacts have been picked up/devoured. A unit may pick up/devour an artifact if they end a move action in contact with it.

The terrain is open, except for the trecherous swamps in the left (sickly-looking lichen trees) which counts as rough terrain. In the right you can see a forested area which counts as rough terrain and cover.


The Game


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The Dark Elves deploy in a line. At the centre they have their heavy infantry deployed, flanked to their left by Darius’ Cold One Knights (with the Witch Elves in tow) and a unit of crossbow elves on the far left.

 dragon rampant warhammer

To the right the infantry centre is flanked by more crossbow elves and the Dark Riders on the far right flank.

dragon rampant warhammer

The elves view the dense forest as a good anchor for their flank, unaware that many spiders don’t care much about rough terrain. The giant spiders swarm around their Arachnomatriarch Thekla. One of the units of the spiderlings drive the maddened spider cultists forward.

dragon rampant warhammer

dragon rampant warhammer

dragon rampant warhammer

The spiders, counting as attackers, go first and all of their units advance. Immediately, the spiderlings on the right scuttle towards the ancient tomb, while the giant spiders on the left march into the swamp. The giant beasts are slowed down by the terrain, but as per their Ranger special rule, they at least won’t have any penalty when fighting in rough terrain.

dragon rampant warhammer

The Dark Elves are less eager to advance on their turn, given the unexpected spider monsters which seem to hurry towards them. Still, the Dark Riders spur their elven steeds on and advance down the flank towards the swamps. They are faster than the giant spiders, so might be able to pick up the magic artifact in the swamp up before the spiders get it.

dragon rampant warhammer

Meanwhile the Spiderlings arrive at the ancient tomb and munch on the warp stone they find there.

dragon rampant warhammer

The other unit of Spiderlings find a cluster of warp stone and a magic scroll by the pond. All of it gets devoured.

 dragon rampant warhammer

Less swiftly, but still, the Dark Elves get into gear. The crossbow elves on the right scale a hill and secure a magic item and some warp stone.

dragon rampant warhammer
The two scouts they got with them are just to bump the number of figures up from 10 to 12, so each figure represents a Strength Point. I also like the idea of formed units having a little detachment of scouts with them on such an expedition.

Quite fittingly, the Witch Elves (the Cold One Knights passed it by, because they wanted ot get to get frontlines fast) run across a jade comb. ‘Because I’m worth it.’

dragon rampant warhammer

Greedily, the spiderlings on the right advance even further to munch on a bag of magic fudge or something. They immediately get a hailstorm of crossbow bolts in return and one spiderling is killed (despite their quite impressive armour value).

dragon rampant warhammer

Another salvo later (which claims another casualty on the spiders), the spiderlings decide that it’s getting too  dangerous and they flee into the cover of the forest.

dragon rampant warhammer

As they munch on a magic bow, the crossbow elves follow to the edge of the forest. Which gets them into close range to the spiderlings AND would mean that they fire into the backs of the spiders. A tempting target.


After a few lucky activation rolls (also showcasing how Light Riders are more easily persued to move than Greater Warbeasts), the Dark Riders indeed manage to snatch the swampy artifact – a soggy book – away while the giant spiders attempt to navigate the boggy ground.

dragon rampant warhammer

The elven centre also gets going and Cassandra personally picks up what seems to be a magic helmet (or a feathered night pot).

dragon rampant warhammer


An overview:

dragon rampant warhammer

The only thing I’m not 100% happy is that both sides have quite similar colours, but a.) I like purple and b.) I couldn’t bring myself to label them as the generic red and blue for tactical arrows and such.

As you can see above, the Witch Elves also turn towards the forest, hoping to keep the spiderlings in check  (or wipe them out) to keep the flank clear.

 dragon rampant warhammer

In an un-maternal tactical move, the Arachnomatriarch sends forth the giant spiders to goad the Cold One Knights into battle. They are subject to the Wild Charge rule, which has them charge stuff as soon as it’s within range. The plan seems to work!

dragon rampant warhammer

…but backfires, as the giant spiders are Battered and flee despire very light losses.

dragon rampant warhammer

Thekla counter-charges…

dragon rampant warhammer

…and throws half the Cold One Knights out of their saddles (with the help of being Venomous).

dragon rampant warhammer

The noble knights are reduced to three and thrown back. One Wild Charge later, they’re instantly in Thekla’s octo-eyed face again. And get smashed. (because they only get half the dice due to being at half-strength, while Thekla gets her full 12 dice AND is rather good on the defensive)

Only Darius is left alive after that second charge, and – given Wild Charge – certainly not willing to do anything but charge in again. Effectively, his unit is down to 1 Strength Point while Thekla is at 4 SP and in a stronger position. Highly problematic.

Cassandra springs to his aid, conjuring Dark Magic(tm) ….

dragon rampant warhammer

… and hurling a mighty “BEFUDDLE THEE!” spell at Thekla.

dragon rampant warhammer

The giant beast is instantly Battered and even if she manages to rally on her turn won’t be able to do anything. If she doesn’t rally, she would be much less dangerous in close combat and Darius might be able to stand up to the gargantuan spider.

This also poses a very interesting situation. As the Arachnomatriarch is Battered, and so are the giant spiders as well, the Dark Elves only need to get one more enemy unit Battered to achieve their great 3-pointer quest.

The Corsairs (Heavy Infantry, Offensive. Meaning they have an improved Attack value) charge at the Spiderlings. One of them is hacked to pieces, they retreat, but don’t get Battered.

dragon rampant warhammer

Similarly, a salvo from the Dark Riders fired toward the giant spiders in the swamp cause one casualty, but fail to do anything morale-wise.

Even worse – on her next turn, Thekla rallies. As soon as the Dark Elves get to act, Darius charges in once more and gets eaten.

This causes all of the Dark Elves to test for Courage (morale). All units stand firm, except for the Dark Riders, who retreat and get Battered.

Very unfortunate. The Witch Elves decide to pick up the last magic item before the spiders do and thus the game ends.

dragon rampant warhammer

Final score:

Dark Elves: 6 (magic items found) – 1 (failed quest) = 5
Spiders: 4 (magic items found) +2 (successful quest) = 6

Spiders Win!

dragon rampant review



For 10 years now, Osprey have been throwing these little blue books onto the market. A lot of them. The cool thing is that they’re all rather different, which blessed us with a vast number of wargames rules for all sorts of settings and periods. And most of them were pretty good too. They recently moved more to the more expensive (and expansive) hard-back rules it seems, but keep the variety up, so that’s good. In a way it’s impressive how a full fantasy skimish game is packed into just 64 pages, but that’s an art form rules authors published by Osprey have to develop.

dragon rampant

Lion Rampant was a big hit within these little blue books. None of them got so many variants as LR did as far as I know. Mr.Mersey got a really cool set of core rules running, garnished with funny little jabs at Fantasy stereotypes, whilst entirely embracing them. Also, don’t forget about the Honouring Your Elders rule, which will grant you two extra Glory point at the end of the game if your warband consisted of fantasy figures which were manufactured pre-1984. 😉

The rules work really well and putting together warbands is loads of fun, I found. Some people may be unhappy with the activation system (and for larger games it may be advisable to introduce commands or wings which activate one after another, so that one failed activation roll doesn’t end the turn for the whole army) and somehow the fact that attack/defence dice don’t scale with the loss of Strength points somehow still irks me. On the other hand I’m sure that there is a point to it, and the activation technically hits both sides equally hard, although we all know of course that somehow I never get to go while the other guy always seems to get to do all the things they want! 😛

One thing which never sat well with me about Lion/Dragon Rampant though is the lack of facing. As soon as I have units of men/amazons/zombies/pogo-stick-hopping goblins, I prefer for them to face a direction and have flanks and a rear. Luckily Mr.Mersey adressed that in 2014 in a Boardgame Geek forums post (hooray for forums and the fact that they actually hold information. Facebook does not do that. Discord certainly doesn’t.) with these optional rules:

dragon rampant review

I tried this in the game below and I think that this is the way to go with Lion/Dragon Rampant. The rules were also added as optional rules in the 2nd edition of Lion Rampant.

For more house-ruly goodness I suggest this very useful PDF: Enhanced Rampant by Richard Cowen.

dragon rampant review

Anyway. Good rules, that Dragon Rampant. I played 2 games of Lion Rampant roughly 10 years ago and liked it. Of course we played with Fantasy figures then as well. In that regard I held back on getting Dragon Rampant for a good while, but in the end picked it up a few years later and it was fully worth it. Dragon Rampant is available in print and as an e-book. Despite the fact that prices vary a fair bit – I had a quick look and the printed version is available from between EUR 12,00 to EUR 15,00 [Miniaturicum.de] or GBP 13.00 from Osprey directly – the ebook version costs GBP 10.39 at Osprey, USD 15.00 at DriveThruRPG. Lion Rampant will go for about the same price (if you can find it), Lion Rampant 2 will go for about EUR 22,00 – 25,00 printed, the e-book version costs GBP 14.00 at Osprey, USD 21.00 at DriveThruRPG. At these price differences, I’d always go with the printed version, but that’s just me and my tree-killing ways. With Osprey books always keep in mind that they are printed and distributed in vast numbers, so I think it’s always worth asking around if anybody has a second hand book they want to get rid of.

For downloadable Lion/Dragon Rampant quick reference sheets and warband rosters, have a look at Osprey Wargames’ Resource page.

I hope that you enjoyed this review and battle report and found it interesting. Sometimes it can be very enjoyable to get something older off the bookshelf. If you have any questions, queries, etc. feel free to contact me via Battle Brush Studios.

One thought on “Dragon Rampant: Review and Test Game

  1. Thanks for the rather in-depth review. I have a friend who owns all the blue osprey books and wants me to give this one a go, after reading this I might indulge him.

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